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back to article Apple patents Wi-Fi access point location lookup

Apple has once again demonstrated that it's no slouch as a patent troll, applying for and receiving a patent to tell you where you are, by performing a database lookup of WiFi access points. US Patent 8700060, “Determining a location of a mobile device using a location database”, covers a phone-stored location database that …

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"The other get-past-the-prior-art inclusion in the patent application is height – so if, for example, you're closer to an access point known to be on the second floor than the first floor, Apple can guess that you're on the second floor."

How would it know you are closer to 1 point and not another? Say there is router on floor below you and you are standing right above it and other is at other side? Then it could say you are on 1st floor not 2nd?

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How do they even know the access point is on the second or first floor? How do they get that info into their database?

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From the accelerometer?

You might be able to get a reasonable idea by using dead reckoning with the accelerometer.

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Anonymous Coward

Perhaps the shop that wants to use Apple's advertising services told them which floor each of their APs is on.

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Prior art

There are numerous companies already selling s/w to do this in the cellular networks - location based services have been offered for donkeys years, with increasingly more accurate location derivation. Cisco sell location services for their access point stuff, too (I think it's part of the Cisco Insight platform, but could be wrong). Hence this is blindingly obvious and non-patentable - all they might be adding to the party is telling the mobile where it is based on this, rather than telling an operator/marketing partner.

Height is easy for commercial deployments of AP - it gets written into the database either as a floor index, or height above local ground in metres.

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Boffin

Height

Say there is router on floor below you and you are standing right above it and other is at other side?

Access points tend to radiate horizontally; if you're right over (or under) one on another floor, it will be detected as 'very weak', if at all. Even more so when the floor is reinforced concrete

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Re: Height

That's not my experience, except the reinforced concrete bit of course.

Setting up networks in old houses with thick internal walls, the floors are your friends. WiFi signals do well through wooden floorboards and the spaces between them, then the plasterboard of the ceiling below. So the best place to put the router is often upstairs.

I guess this is more aimed at commercial buildings, which will be more likely to have signal-blocking concrete slabs. They're also more likely to be the places that record what floor their routers are on.

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Re: Prior art

Not sure if this qualifies for art but Google ended up in court for (over)collecting the data required for location services.

Apple, no shame whatsoever, not that anyone expected.

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This one is new!

Prior art uses a 50x50 YARD matrix.

A metre is bigger than a yard, so this new Apple innovation is 1.094^2 = 1.197 times as good.

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Coat

Re: This one is new!

@Charles that would be less good, if a metre is more than a yard, then it is less accurate! ;-)

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@big_D

You have made the school boy error of thinking as an engineer rather than a marketroid.

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Re: This one is new!

You are dividing it wrong!

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Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Else there would be a tremendous amount of prior art. And good that Apple didn't do it either. At least Apple didn't drive around in conspicuous cars yelling 'We collect all your private information (and what a nice image of you fertilizing that tree!)". Or did they?

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Yea apple will just get all the end users to do the leg work.

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Apple tried to, but their cars kept ending up on runways and in the middle of the outback.

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Actually, though Google did do it, this isn't the part which caused them trouble. It was the fact that they recorded packets going through the WiFi while they were driving by which made governments unhappy.

That I know, mapping the WiFi access points has not been judged a violation of privacy, and it is perfectly known that Apples iPhones have been using a similar mapping for years.

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Plenty of companies map access points and provide the data on a commercial data to Google and Apple… who've been busy improving their own databases thanks to their users. Not sure how the commercial providers will react to this silly landgrab. But whoever okayed the patent needs a good talking to!

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Yeah,

The one that was out of date as soon as people knew that the StreetView cars had been along their street and changed their SSID's.

If this patent was to be really smart then it would dynamically collate the data and not rely on a historical DB that might be years out of date.

The big question is what happens to that data when collated. Does it get send back to the Apple Mothership thus continually updating their master DB?

No I have not read the patent. As one of the inventors of a H/W patent that was granted more than 40 years aso and well past its sell-by date, I know how difficult they are to read for the average person and really don't want to torture myself with that task ever again.

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Nor did Google. There is nothing illegal about driving around recording what access points you can pick up an where. Microsoft and Apple have also done this too, not on the scale of Google , but they have.

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@Steve Davies 3

Changing SSID is futile. That's not how these location systems work. After all, an SSID of "BTWiFi-with-FON" can only conclude you have been blown into a million pieces and scattered all over the UK. Very commonly found worldwide are manufacturer default SSIDs such as 'linksys', 'NETGEAR' and 'dlink'.

The vital element is the MAC address and this is not as easy to change. Spoofing a MAC address is supported on some bits of kit, tricky to do on others and near impossible on yet others. While a few reg readers have the capability, not enough people can use this to sabotage large access point databases.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: people knew that the StreetView cars had been along their street and changed their SSID's

Makes no difference. The MAC would still be the same.

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Nah, they were holding the maps wrong....

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Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

"But whoever okayed the patent needs a good talking to!"

The patent was okayed by the several hundred cretins who passed the law saying that the USPTO should henceforth grant *any* patent which is accompanied by the paperwork and the fees, leaving it to the courts to decide whether it is valid or not. The situation won't improve until people stop slagging off the patent clerks and start pointing out that the entire system is broken (in favour of the lawyers, natch).

Frankly I'm amazed that we're only up to "US Patent 8700060".

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Pint

Re: Good that Google didn't illegally map all private Wifi access points in the EU.

Driving around?

They can build up a huge database by simply monitoring their ecosystem members' location (GPS flicking on once in a while...), and then have the gadget phone home to mama.

I'm certain that Apple and Google know where my personal household hotspots are located, even though they're only within range inside my house in the middle of our extensive grounds. The only reason I don't include BlackBerry in this list is that the PlayBook GPS is stone cold deaf and it hasn't got a clue where it is unless you stand outside on a chair, holding it above your head for 20 minutes.

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Why????

I guess other than pitching ads to your mobe as you walk past stores... oh.... nevermind, answered it myself. Otherwise, one would assume they knew where they are.

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I suspect this is designed to work with iBeacon

The locations of the wifi access points are known/fixed, which implies they aren't using Joe Blow's as you drive/walk by as Google wanted to do. This would be used for navigating inside a mall or corporate building, not for finding your way around a neighborhood.

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Headline should read "NSA (via its commercial partner Apple) patents access point locations

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Apple?

Google and Microsoft caved to the NSA years before Apple did, why single them out?

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Black Helicopters

One of the benefits...

Not only could Apple tell you where to find the thing you're looking for, they'll also be able to direct you via a route that will keep you away from what they don't want you to see, or even what they do want you to see; "Don't turn right, turn left... Nothing to see here, hey! Look at that!"

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FAIL

This is so not worth...

a patent, this should be thrown out.

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From the company that taught mobile computers which way is up

and N, S, E, W comes a way to tell mobile devices which way to look-up Wifi. Obviously prior art see Garmin, Google et al.

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remember that lifetime user location on the iPhone?

well it seems that this pretty much makes us of it, so it as most of us well know, it was likely not a NSA privacy error.

Can you believe it, they just patented a location database!

Are you having a laugh?

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Gimp

Coming soon...

Apple receive patent for patenting things.

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So... I assume they got the patent because the database is stored on the device rather than dynamically accessed in the cloud like pretty much every implementation - but.... how big is the database that is being stored on the device? I would assume that the Android implementation stores at least a partial amount of the database on the device to prevent duplicate lookup calls by using cached data.

Because this patent says the server can remotely update the on-device database, that sounds like keeping the database fresh, but doesn't sound like the device will only store data for the immediate (or larger) area - eg to pluck a figure out of the air - 10 miles - which would be a far better use of data.

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It would be eminently sensible to apply a FIFO approach to the data, and thus make the local db as small as practicable. Moving along any line, you'd necessaryily have the db updating in small dribs and drabs, but always remaining relevant; the data itself determines what of the data should remain, and what can be replaced.

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Bah, don't worry about it.

They'll probably plot your location on Apple Maps, and you'll have absolutetly NO idea where you are.

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Childcatcher

I dispair.

Please someone close the USPO.

Maybe if enough companies get enough of these stupid patents which are PURELY about stopping competitors launching real products and NOTHING about protecting the investment made in innovation someone will reform the system.

Maybe Apple employs more people creating patents than actually doing anything in a lab.

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Other patent trolls are available

Why do only Apple patents get reported in this breathless way? Other tech firms are busy patenting things all the time, often more interesting and/or innovative.

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Re: Other patent trolls are available

In which case they wouldn't be patent trolls! Apple get reported because this is neither interesting nor innovative and therefore not worthy of a patent.

There are existing apps available for internal wayfaring in shopping malls (see Westfield) which work on Android phones and can tell where you are vertically and horizontally done through monitoring signal strenth to the wi-fi. It was (I don't know if it still is) impossible to do this on Apple devices as Apple wouldn't allow developers to access the signal strength.

Ironic therefore that Apple should now try to patent something that has been possible on Android for at least three years

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Gee, Google hired the guy named Marius Milner who wrote NetStumbler. A widely used wardriving APP that mapped out a LOT of access points all over. Check out www.wigle.net - this is the free database that has all the apps uploaded so you can see around your area.

Apple is just trying to patent something that has been out since 2003 and is public domain. Google has a BIG dog in this fight this time.

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Apple about to get their butt whooped

Gee, Google hired the guy named Marius Milner who wrote NetStumbler. A widely used wardriving APP that mapped out a LOT of access points all over. Check out www.wigle.net - this is the free database that has all the apps uploaded so you can see around your area.

Apple is just trying to patent something that has been out since 2003 and is public domain. Google has a BIG dog in this fight this time.

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Anonymous Coward

Apple's has special permission ...

...........to patent everything that moves.

In "Heinekin patents parts that no other corporate entity can reach" the beer brand just became a bitter cider.

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Anonymous Coward

T&Cs

"Thank you for connecting to my WiFi access point, by doing which you have accepted my terms and conditions."

T&Cs para 666: If you are connecting from a device manufactured for or on behalf of Apple Inc (or any affiliated corporate entities or in any bla bla) or any software connected in any way with Apple Inc (etc) then you agree to provide a $1m bond guaranteeing that in no way will any information whatsoever about this wireless network be provided to any such entity. Should they attempt to access any such information you are guaranteeing their payment of $100m per access attempt to AppleAreCheekyBastards Ltd and an additional $100m per access attempt to USPTONeedsToBeShutDownImmediatelyAndItsStaffCrucified Inc.

</dream>

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Anonymous Coward

They've patented a 50x50 meter geographic grid ?

49x49 it is then.

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Anonymous Coward

4 years ago or more

Pfft 50 metes? http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/11559_Ovi_Maps_304_34_improves_perfo.php

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